Stina Blackstenius’ brace and Lina Hurtig’s throbbing header gave Sweden a deserved victory, with the USA looking to see a shadow of the side that won the world championship two years ago.
Sweden were undoubtedly the better team from first whistle to last, and USWNT, who came to this Olympics as a strong favorite, have a lot to improve on in the upcoming games against New Zealand and Australia if it wants to win a fifth gold medal.
This historic result for Sweden will give the team confidence that it can go better than Rio 2016, where it fell to Germany at the last obstacle in the gold medal match.
For the United States, the defeat ends with a 44-game undefeated race – 40 wins and four draws – that had stretched all the way back to January 2019, when it lost 3-1 to France in a friendly match.
Sweden outperformed the United States the last time these two teams met on the Olympic stage and came out on top after a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals five years ago in Brazil.
However, there was not much sign of this motivation during the opening exchange of the match in Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium – after which both teams took a knee on the empty arena – as Sweden exercised its dominance from the opening whistle.
The Swedes soon got the goal their early game deserved when Sofia Jakobsson’s whipped post was looked excellent home by Blackstenius at the nearest post after 25 minutes.
The United States had barely managed to get out of its own half in this opening 45 minutes, much less gain any kind of foothold in the game, with Sweden enjoying more than 60% of possession.
Blackstenius had a wonderful opportunity to double Sweden’s lead just before the break by controlling a long pass brilliantly on the chest, but just got the ball stuck under his feet to give American goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher the opportunity to get out and suffocate the chance.
Given the extent of the talent in the American team, however, it would always be unlikely that Sweden could contain its opponents in the entire half. It was Rose Lavelle who had the chance to equalize, but her header from a long ball into the box crashed out towards the post.
That it was the reigning world champion’s only real chance to notice in the first half was proof of Sweden’s superiority, the yellow shirts swarmed the American players in midfield and did not allow them a moment to relax on the ball.
The only negative from Sweden’s perspective was that it had only managed to open a one-goal lead – would the team fight for this scam in front of the goal?
USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski made two substitutions early in the second half, with the very experienced Carli Lloyd and Julie Ertz coming in to replace Alex Morgan and Samantha Mewis.
Ertz seemed to immediately breathe new life into the American team, but just as it seemed that the momentum in the game was changing, Sweden doubled its advantage.
Blackstenius this time took the remains at the far post after a Swedish corner caused chaos in the American box and stuck the ball past Naeher in the roof of the net.
From there, it only got worse for the American team.
After substitute Megan Rapinoe hit the post as she might have scored, Sweden put an exclamation point next to her performance as Quick rose high in the box to take home from Hanna Glas’ post.
The camera cut to the American bench, where a confused Andonovski sat helpless on the bench.
He now has plenty to think about ahead of the tough upcoming matches against New Zealand and Australia if the US wants to avoid a shock early exit.